GOP Still Struggles to Sell Health Care, Heading Into Critical Week – NBCNews.com

 In U.S.
WASHINGTON — When Congress returns to work Monday, Senate Republicans will press forward with their attempt to reform the nation’s health care system, an effort that has been hampered for months by internal divisions and an ineffective and inconsistent public relations push.

Low approval ratings have plagued the GOP’s health care bill throughout the party’s effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The reasons: A secretive process that ignored public input, a disengaged president who hasn’t energized his base, and the task of selling a bill its own party can’t get behind.

The Senate will get to work again this week to settle differences over the legislation, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, with the goal of holding a vote next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to postpone a vote he had planned to hold before the July 4th recess due to a lack of votes.

Selling it is unlikely to get any easier after many members of Congress spent the past week in their home states, listening to — and in some cases avoiding — voters who have concerns about the legislation.

Polls show that the party’s ideas about reform are only growing more unpopular over time. When the House of Representatives passed its bill, the American Health Care Act, in early May, public support for the measure was 23 percent in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Last month, the same poll found that just 16 percent of respondents supported the GOP plan.

Michael Steel, former spokesman to former House Speaker John Boehner, said it has been difficult for Republicans to transition from the opposition party to one trying to implement a seven-year long campaign promise that focused more on the repeal part than the replace.

“After years of being focused on opposition to Obamacare and its failures, a lot of Republicans are rusty when it comes to making the case for conservative health care reform,” said Steel.

Related: Poll: 48 Percent Say House GOP Health Care Bill Is a Bad Idea

And Republicans have been undercutting their own efforts.

When the House passed its bill, which makes cuts to Medicaid, lowers tax credits to help purchase insurance and undermines protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Republican senators declared it dead on arrival.

And the biggest public-relations asset Republicans have — President Donald Trump and his bully pulpit — has been an ineffective and inconsistent communicator on the issue. His focus has usually been elsewhere and when he has discussed health care, his message has been contradictory.

Trump often boasts that the GOP health care plan will provide “better” care and will be “great,” but discussion of any details is sparse. He held a news conference in the Rose Garden celebrating the House passage of the bill, but in a subsequent meeting with senators, he called the House version “mean.”

And no other Republican has stepped up to be the lead cheerleader for the measure.

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